Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder
Harlequin/MIRA (December 20, 2011)
Trade: $14.95; ebook: $10.99 (pre-order for best price)
Favorite Lines: “Right before I was escorted to the jail, Fawn waved bye-bye to me. I smiled. My empty, pointless life for hers. Not bad.” (p. 15, egalley)
Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Fifteen Realms, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.
Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life….
I think I’m gonna love this new series by Maria V. Snyder. What is it? The Healer series which begins in Touch of Power. We are introduced to a world decimated by plague and humanity. It is a fantastical world and the start of an epic journey.
Touch of Power is about Avry who is a healer, but it’s also about the kingdoms effected by the plague and the many people Avry meets on her journey. It is an action packed, enticing launch of a fantasy series. I plowed through the book and can’t wait to read book two, Scent of Magic.
Touch of Power establishes the setting and background needed to understand the treachery, trauma and traitorous actions which are normal in the apocalyptic, magic filled world. It is not a human world. It’s an alternate history in which characters travel by foot and live in medieval like buildings. Its people are superstitious and the actions remind me of those taken during the Black Death in medieval England. Every one has been effected by the illness, but it’s a magical sickness. Still the people turn on what they don’t understand which happens to be healers. Because it is an alternate world the healers possess a magical ability. They assume the illness of the person they heal (hey, it is magic), so if they heal a fever…they get a fever. The healers heal quickly, but they still feel pain. Healing is a major part of the story, but there is so much more.
There are many story lines which connect at different points in Touch of Power. Those story lines push the story, but the likeable heroine Avry carries the story. Maybe because everything is told from her point of view. As she discovers knowledge, so does the reader. She is a compassionate heroine who is intelligent enough to know when to press an issue and when to get out of Dodge. This is a survival technique she was forced to learn in order to survive; she had been in hiding for over two years. Her survival methods apply to all aspects of life, including family matters. Because Avry had a brain and a heart, I wanted her to live. Not just eek by. I wanted her to thrive.
Avry isn’t on her trip alone, however. She is rescued early in the story by a group of travelers. Out of all her traveling companions, I cared about her friend Belen the most. He is a bear of a man. He is faithful and trust worthy. Hell, he is just plain the perfect man. I really appreciate Snyder allowing her heroine to have a solid friendship with a male. There is never sexual tension between the two, simply a deep “I’d do anything for you” connection shared between them. It’s a refreshing change to stories which pair a homosexual male with the heroine or twist a friendship into a romance. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with those stories, but pairing a straight man with a straight woman in a straight friendship doesn’t happen as much as it should. I’m always happy when it does occur because it reaffirms the idea that men and women can be friends without benefits. That said, y’all know I like romance in my fantasy and urban fantasy so you have to know there’s a trace of something in the book.
After my rant about Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams (you can read it here), I’d be remiss not to point out the heroine’s possible love interest in the man who physically injured her. In a way it’s different from my feelings I posted in Shadow Reader because the two know nothing of the other before they meet and they have no interest in the other which would lead to a relationship.
I’d gone too far. With a strangled cry, Kerrick lost his temper. Belen lunged toward Kerrick and I raised an arm to block Kerrick’s strike, but we were both too slow. Kerrick back-handed me across my cheek. The force of the blow sent me to the ground.–p. 41
The hero is on a journey to save his friend who is also his prince. He reacts to a threat which happens to be the heroine. However physical abuse is never acceptable which leads to my indecisive emotions about a romance between the two. There are other scenes in which Kerrick is less than salacious to the woman who unknowingly holds the world’s fate in her hands, but taken in context–I don’t really consider them as a man being abusive to a woman. I think they are a warrior trying to convince the enemy to toe the line.
Maria V. Snyder hooked me the story of a healer with the power to cure the world. I love the plant life, the characters and the action. There are so many things taking place that I think I could easily reread the story and find small things that I missed the first time. I will buy this in paper form to sit on my bookshelf.